Women’s rights are always of concern to ELCA World Hunger. Education, land ownership, access to credit – all of these things provide the means to make a living, and all of these things are often denied to women. Unsurprisingly, women suffer a disproportionate amount of hunger and poverty compared to men.
As a white woman living in the United States, I’ve always recognized that an accident of birth has allowed me access to power structures that many women in the world don’t have. Such luck to be born here and now! But two things I’ve read in the past week have alerted me to just how much the “now” matters.
The first comes from Dreamers of the Day, an historical novel by Mary Doria Russell. She describes an unmarried schoolteacher living in Ohio in 1920:
“Well, at the end of the war, women had achieved the suffrage, but the Nineteenth Amendment didn’t carry with it the right to make a living. There were so many demobilized soldiers needing work that we ladies were often summarily dismissed from employment.”
Can you imagine the lawsuits that would occur now? Yet that was the state of the country within the lifetime of people I have known. It really was not that long ago.
The second item comes from a blurb about Women’s History Month (which is now, in March):
“1974’s Equal Credit Opportunity Act gave married women the right to have credit cards and bank loans in their own name. Prior to that, in many states, wives had to defer to their husbands for credit card use, and women had to have a male cosigner to get a loan.”
1974!! That’s within my lifetime! I had no idea that, at the time I was born, my mother could not have her own credit card! One could look at these things and despair at how long it has taken for women’s rights to get to where they are, and how far they have to go. But I take heart on the flip side. Look how deeply embedded these rights have become in our society in such a relatively short time, and what a wonderfully important difference they have made.
And the fight for women’s rights goes on! To read more about VERY current affairs and ongoing work on the topic, I encourage you to read the Ecumenical Women blog. Emily Davila, the Assistant Director at the Lutheran Office for World Community in New York, says there’s a lot of interesting posting going on right now from the Commission on the Status of Women. Learn more and lend your voice so that opportunity for women doesn’t depend on birth place and time.